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Travelling Light: Liquidity of Possessions and Practices among Global Nomads

Associate Professor Fleura Bardhi, Northeastern University, Boston

18th Mar 2011  10:00 am - 11:30 am Room 214/215, H69 - Economics and Business Building

This research re-examines the role of possessions in geographical mobility through the study of global nomads, a highly mobile group of consumers whose identities and lifestyles are not anchored to a particular national geography. In contrast to prior work that argues for a salient role of possessions because of their linking value as identity markers to particular places or relationships, we do not find such roles. Instead, global nomad's consumption projects are highlighted by the logic of instrumentality, where consumption objects and practices are strategic elements in serial reterritorialization. Moreover, as global nomads exhibit a detachment from possessions and put a premium on flexibility and fluidity, we introduce and develop the concept of liquid possessions. Liquid possessions are objects valued temporarily for their use-value and immateriality. We argue that it is the liquidity of possessions and the mastery of consumption practices that enable nomads to maintain a lifestyle detached from national geographies and reinforces their mobility. Our unique context of study provides for theoretical contributions to consumer behaviour theories of materiality and acculturation.